Vernon Adams’ Impact: The Fade Route is Back!

FP Fade Route

One of the most complex pass routes to complete is the Fade Route, especially when used in the Red Zone, and even more so inside the five-yard line. Oregon has had difficulty completing this pass in recent years (fourth down against Stanford, anyone?), and a couple of us have been pondering if the unique touch of Vernon Adams throwing to freakishly athletic Kirk Merritt won’t solve that issue.

Note: I do not have the endorsement of any coach for this analysis. This is my own contemplation of “what if?” scenarios.

All the videos below are set to start right at the spot so you will see the one play, and in this first case — a classic fade route.

As you see above, the idea with the fade route is that the receiver runs straight ahead while “fading” slightly to the sidelines, then going up and high-pointing the ball on the catch. Oregon runs this route with both wide receivers and tight ends when the appropriate matchup presents itself.

The quarterback’s job on this play is simple, but not easy: for a successful completion, the ball needs to be thrown to the outside shoulder of the wide-out, while putting enough air under the ball to allow the receiver to high-point the ball. Throwing too far to the outside (i.e., out of bounds) is preferable to under throwing the ball, which often results in an interception.

The video above shows the same call, but on a different play. Note how the receiver “leans” inside on the defender with his hips and shoulder to free up space to the outside before catching the ball. Mike Leach made this inside hip/leaning technique famous with his “Air Raid” passing offense while at Texas Tech, and now implements this concept at Washington State.

Above, Vernon does a great job executing a three-step drop from behind center (a one-step drop from the shotgun) and throwing to a spot 15-20 yards downfield and a few yards from the sideline.

Simply unbelieveable!

From Video

Simply unbelieveable!

I cannot decide what is most insane about the GIF above; is it Vernon throwing that route on fourth down (Forget Big-Balls Chip … we have a new gunslinger!)? Is it the incredible throw, or the even more amazing catch? I’m thinking of athletes Oregon has at wideout and wondering if they would not give Adams that much more confidence throwing the fade.

When the corner is in press coverage, the key component to getting open is making the corner move his feet one direction or another to allow the receiver to run up the field and get separation. Head fakes inside, simulating an inside-breaking route, can help move the corner’s feet and gain the separation needed.

As you can see above, Vernon also likes to throw a longer fade from the 20-yard line area and has far more touchdowns with this variation of the fade than the classic version inside the five-yard line. The play starts at 3:01 if you want to watch it a second time.

This play (above) is more typical of how Eastern Washington utilized their superior quarterback and receivers. Adams throws a dime while the wideout runs a sweet double move to get past the corner and open for the touchdown! Now that we have seen Vernon’s skills in throwing the fade route, who will emerge as the go-to fade route runner for the Ducks?

Every July the best high school athletes are invited to The Opening football camp in Beaverton, Oregon, to show their skills and compete in the SPARQ National Championship that highlights the best overall athlete in the nation. Louisiana superstar Kirk Merritt won the event prior to coming to Oregon with an incredible 43-inch vertical jump (36 inches is considered elite status).

However his best jump was not at the The Opening, but in a private session you can see in the video below.

Are you kidding me? Merritt (above) jumped fifty-two inches off the ground? Are you thinking what I’m thinking about the fade route now? These two new Ducks could make the fade almost routine for the Ducks. I would like to think that such athletic feats would inspire competition among this most elite group of Oregon receivers, and that this atmosphere could produce the best season ever of jaw-dropping plays for the heroes in green (and that, my friends, is a very high bar).

Yes, I believe that between the accuracy of Adams and the skills of the greatest receiving corps in Oregon history, athletic plays like the one above could be routine in the 2015 season.

“Oh how we love to learn about our new Beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer  (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst for CFF Network/
Eugene, Oregon

Top Photo from Video

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Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks for thirty years and has written reports on football boards for over a dozen years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, a daughter, Christine, and their dog (Abbie) reside in Eugene, Oregon, where he has been a financial advisor for 30 years serving clients in seven different states. He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More...

  • Boggs

    Coach Fischer,
    I have seen Vernon play in person, but I haven’t seen him side-by-side with the other Duck QBs. How does he look in comparison? Does he clearly stand out? How close do you think this competition is really?

    • FishDuck

      The practices are closed, and the one they opened had them walking through plays. I have not seen him play and don’t know. Sorry. But thanks for calling me “Coach” as I actually cannot use that label…

      • Boggs555

        My apologies. I thought maybe you had gotten an idea or comparison from the one open practice. I’m excited to see reactions from today’s scrimmage.
        As much as Lockie seems like a nice guy, I’ve never seen anything promising from him. Even his spring game performance that everyone raves about showed more of his weaknesses than anything else. Yes, he went 9 for 9, but the only pass downfield was severely underthrown (granted it was a trick play).

        I think Vernon has the best deep ball we’ve had since Joey. To top it off, he’s freakishly accurate on short and mid-range throws as well (as you’ve already pointed out here).

        I’ve seen folks arguing that Lockie should start the Eastern game (or the first few games), but I don’t think that would be what’s best for Vernon’s development. I think I’d prefer that we throw him in there to get early experience in the system.
        I guess the question boils down to whether or not we think we can beat Michigan State with Lockie. If yes, they we can afford to sit Vernon until after the Mich St. game. If no, we’ve got to start Vernon in the first game.

        • duckusucker

          Why either-or?
          Both Lockie and Adams will play vs E. Michigan. The better man will start vs Spartans.

          • Boggs555

            *E. Washington

            And either-or because if we need Vernon to win in East Lansing, he will need as much game experience in the system as he can get.

          • duckusucker

            At this point, Coach says there is no separation between them. IF this continues, it makes no sense randomly to choose one to play all of the E. Michigan game. The best crucible is a real game: throw both into the fire for a half (alternate quarters) and see who handles it best.
            Now, personally, I think Adams will prevail (I didn’t earlier think so, but a review of his highlights showed me he has Mariota-level talent [actually, he’s a better pure passer]). After all, Helf is on record after just one week of seeing Adams that the kid has pulled even with Lockie and his four year experience… I don’t think it’s reckless to reason that, with another week of practice and a week of game-prep that Adams will pull ahead.
            I feel for Lockie: by all accounts, a talented guy who’d probably have started for more than a couple of PAC programs; but Adams does appear to be a very special player, a rare talent w/the stats to prove it.

          • Boggs555

            I’d be shocked if there’s actually “no separation” between them as passers (unless Lockie has undergone some sort of dramatic transformation). When factoring in learning the playbook, sure, maybe they’re “even.”

            I feel for Lockie too, but I don’t think he has the talent to start at a top-tier PAC program. Maybe that’s not fair since we haven’t really seen him in meaningful game situations, but you’d think there would be some glimmer wouldn’t you?

          • duckusucker

            Arm strength: it wasn’t long ago that the buzz was Lockie had a great
            long ball, that it’s what led to his ascendancy over J-Rod, leading to
            the latter kid’s transfer. Jeff certainly had plenty of “wow!” high
            school distance throws showing his strength, placement, and touch.
            have to take Helf’s word: it’s all we’ve got. If he says they’re even,
            that’s pretty much it. I don’t think Lockie is a much better runner than
            Adams; I’d say the passing is what has been equivalent. I’ve always
            liked Jeff’s nimble feet in the pocket, the way he casually avoids
            From what Adams himself has said the last few days, that
            he’s far behind in the playbook, I’d say that may play a factor in who
            starts. Plus, Adams was quick to catch up, but perhaps that’s because
            expectations relatively were lower since he’d only had a week?
            Anyhow, good hearing your points.
            At THIS point, I’m thinking Coach will give both guys a game shot. Of course, after today’s scrimmage, all that could change!

      • duckusucker

        But…. it doesn’t take a Phd in logic to tell that if Helfrich thinks it’s a coin flip for starter after Adams has been around for ONE week—- well, I think it’s almost a safe bet that he’ll get the job. Lockie’s been around for four years, Adams one week. Equal? Must be a real motivator for Lockie!

  • Sammy

    One of the the worst plays in college football is the fade route in the end zone. Requires a perfectly timed and thrown ball and a very difficult catch. Terrible percentage play resulting in a wasted down, especially in the red zone. Hated to see it back in the playbook last year and I can’t recall the Ducks completing one red zone attempt last year. I don’t remember Chip Kelly ever using it in his years at Oregon.

    • Sammy

      In my humble opinion

    • Boggs555


  • duckusucker

    Good news about the fade route: Carrington has serious hops, himself; Stanford is a legitimate 6’5″ AND he can vertical, too.
    We may need to wear two pair of sunglasses to watch this team…